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Lake Toya, Japan

Spot of Tranquility.

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Little India, Singapore

Spices, gold and splashes of colour!

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Singapore Flyer, Gardens by the Bay

Garden City, City in a Garden.

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Bryce Canyon, USA

Thor's Hammer

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Chocolate Test, Singapore

"All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt." -Charles M Schulz

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Telunas Private Island (Indonesia)

It was some time since I took a break from work and we decided to go somewhere over one weekend. We were looking for somewhere near, not too expensive and somewhere special. After looking through many options, we decided to go Telunas Private Island

Expectations were high, but I am glad to say that it didn't disappoint. 

1) How to get there 

We had booked a ferry with Batam Fast in advance ($48 for return trip). From Harbour Front, we took a 11:10 a.m. ferry to Sekupang. There are only two options for you to choose from- either the 11:10 a.m. ride or the 3:10 p.m. ride. Click here for the ferry timings. The ride there was comfortable and took around 1 hour. 

Upon reaching Sekupang, Telunas staff wearing blue shirts would be there to lead you to the boat that will take you to Telunas. We went there on traditional wooden longboats. A round trip cost S$75++ per person. Before we got onto the boat, we were warned by the staff that the people sitting in front would get wet and the people sitting behind would be near the engines. As we waited for the others to board, we were left with front row seats. The seawater left us soaked but the strong winds dried us quickly too.

The boat ride took around 1+ hour and because it was lunch time, we were each given a lunch box. I decided to have a late lunch instead of having it on the boat, because I was busy shielding my face from the seawater that was splashing in.

Upon arrival, we were each given a wet towel and a cool refreshing drink made with cucumber and lime. I am not a fan of cucumber but it was a perk-me-up after a rough ride on the boat. Telunas' staff then took time to explain to us the features of the private island before we were brought to our rooms.

We had two plates of fruits waiting for us when we entered the room. I appreciated the gesture but one of the fruits had turned bad by the time we ate it- it's probably the heat of the place. 

2) Room

The room was beautiful and nothing like I have stayed in before. There is something about how some of the best places I have stayed in are in Indonesia, take for example, Junjungan in Ubud. 

The place was clean, the staff made your bed twice a day while you are having your meals, and it is always nice to come back to a nicely made room. The king size bed was comfortable and made for a good night's rest.

What struck me in particular was the interesting furniture that they had around the place. These furniture are made from repurposed wooden boats by the locals and are a unifying theme around the private island.

It was also great that they had a water dispenser which had both cold and hot water. The water from the tap is not portable, so instead, they provide a water dispenser- you save money on buying water, and they help you to contribute less waste to the environment.

A ladder also leads up to two single beds.

This is ideal especially for families travelling with children. I am sure the children would love the idea of climbing the ladder and enjoy some time off from their parents too!

I am very particular when it comes to toilets, and the toilet here hit the mark. It was well-lit (can I just say how much I hate dimly lit toilets), there were adequate toiletries and the shower pressure was strong. However, when I was brushing my teeth, I couldn't help but think how the water was not portable- but nothing can be done about this anyway.

When I was in Ubud, I saw the rice fields when I woke up. When I am at Telunas, not only do I see the ocean I wake up, I heard the sounds of the ocean all day long. Here, you do not get woken up by your alarm clock, but the sounds of the waves crashing. It is therapeutic to be this close to nature.

3) Food 

Meals were at the Grand Lodge and we could choose from a daily menu which changes what we wanted for our meals. We found ourselves looking forward to every meal time. There is a mandatory charge of IDR 750k +++ per adult per night.

Every villa had a table number allocated to them. Again, look at the interesting furniture.

I would say that the food was average and not impressive (desserts are clearly not their forte). The service we had during our meals more than made up for it though.

For breakfast, we had a choice of pancakes, waffles, eggs etc. and with a selection of juices, cereal and bread. I found the eggs way too buttery.

On the second day, we opted for an Asian breakfast and this was much better than the scrambled eggs I had. One of the staff told us that this is the equivalent of our nasi lemak. Not quite but it was well executed. The chilli, especially, was addictive and I could eat it alone with the rice. 

For lunch, it is a 2 course meal where you get a main course and a dessert. The sotong in this dish was spicy and appetising. The vegetables didn't look particularly fresh though. 

Dinner was a 3 course meal, with appetiser, main course and dessert. The first night, I had Thailand Style Spicy Seafood Paella and the second night I got this Teriyaki Fish with Bak Choy. Both main courses were pretty good although their desserts failed to impress. 

If you brought drinks, you can store them in the refrigerator located in the Grand Lodge. They also provide a selection of drinks and you can simply record in the book what you have taken and this will be included in your bill when you check out. 

4) Activities

By now, you would know that there is no wifi here. While there are 3G cards for sale, the connection is still bad so you might as well ditch the idea if you have no urgent emails that you need to clear. 

We spent time reading and talking to each other. After dinner, because there was nothing to do, we played chess (by the way, there are 3 missing pieces, time to replace the chess set). There were also other games available. 

There was a swimming pool which overlooks the ocean but we didn't use it. 

You can also rent a kayak or try stand up paddling for free. I have never tried kayaking so we just stayed close to shore. For those trying stand up paddling for the first time, please do not use it close the shore because there is coral and my friend injured his foot when he fell while trying to balance. 

We had intended to go to Telunas Beach Resort that afternoon but our plans were foiled because of the busted foot. 

The beach didn't look good for swimming, so don't come expecting turquoise waters. There are certain months where the water is clear so keep a lookout for these dates on their website. 

5) Service 

The staff here are hospitable and always went the extra mile for us. Not only were they friendly, they helped my friend when he required medical attention after stepping on the coral and had a deep cut. They were fast to get him to Moro (a 20 minute boat ride away) to see a doctor, acted as translator, lent him a shoulder to lean on and even offered to deliver lunch to villa. Special mention to Yogi and two others (unfortunately, didn't get their names) who went out of their way to help us. 

Despite the minor mishap that happened on this island, we left this island well-rested and ready to deal with a busy life again! Click here for the rates.

Telunas Private Island 
Riau Islands Province 29442

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Saboten (313 Somerset)

It has been nearly 3 years since I last went to Saboten. Due to the recent reports about bacterial outbreak from eating raw fish, we decided to skip the raw fish and went for some cooked Japanese food instead. 

The interesting thing about this place is that the booths are rather high which gives you more privacy than other restaurants. This reminded me of a television program I watched recently where in Japan, there are these restaurants with individual booths and everybody would just eat their ramen without having to see the person in the next cubicle- see an article here

I ordered a Salmon Seafood Gozen ($24) which came with Half Salmon Katsu, Fried Shrimp and Crab Cream Croquette. The set also came with Japanese rice, miso soup, chawanmushi, cabbage and dessert.

I can never have enough of those thinly shredded fresh cabbage drizzled with sesame sauce which is a good accompaniment to the deep fried food. The deep fried items were not greasy and despite the seemingly small portion, made a rather a substantial dinner. Saboten has obviously mastered the art of deep frying.

Eating Crab Cream Croquettes  reminded me of the Crab Rangoons that they serve in Chinese restaurants in America. It was a strangely familiar yet unfamiliar taste- the sense of deja vu which hits once in a while.

The dessert to round off the meal was mango ice cream. I was hoping for some yuzu ice cream or black sesame ice cream. Rather ordinary, the otherwise good dinner failed to end with a bang.

Service was pleasant and the waiters came by to refill our green tea often. Come early to avoid the crowd.

313 Somerset
313 Orchard Road
Tel No: 6333 3432